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The 3d DCA held in Lantana Insurance, Ltd. v. Thornton, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1537a (Fla. 3d DCA July 17, 2013), that the third party complaint filed by a personal injury victim against the insurer of an alleged tortfeasor should have been dismissed because the personal injury victim did not have a beneficial interest in the insured's policy.

Markhamat Abdujalalova filed a negligence action against Mr. Thornton after Mr. Thornton allegedly "clothes-lined" Mr. Abdujalalova with a leash while walking a dog. Mr. Thornton had homeowners' insurance with Lantana Insurance and Alfa Insurance. Both insurers denied coverage for the claim.

Alfa Insurance filed a separate action to secure a declaration regarding coverage. Mr. Abdujalalova filed a third party complaint against Lantana in the coverage action. Lantana moved to dismiss the third party complaint filed by Mr. Abdujalalova but the trial court denied the motion.

The 3d DCA quashed the trial court's order. The 3d DCA held that § 627.4136(1), Fla. Stat., requires that a personal injury plaintiff obtain a settlement or verdict against the insured tortfeasor before bringing an action against the tortfeasor's insurance company.

The 3d DCA held that Mr. Abdujalalova did not have a beneficial interest in Ms. Thornton's policy because he had not yet obtained a settlement or verdict against Ms. Thornton. Without a beneficial interest in Ms. Thorton's policy, Mr. Abdujalalova was precluded from bringing a claim against Ms. Thornton's insurer. The 3d DCA held that Lantana would suffer irreparable harm if forced to litigate a direct action prior to a verdict or settlement against its insured.


 

 

This summary was prepared by Susan Fuller of our firm.


Susan Fuller

 

 

38 Fla. L. Weekly D1537a

 

Insurance -- Liability -- Trial court should have dismissed third-party complaint for declaratory judgment brought against liability insurer where there had been no settlement or verdict against insured -- Party who was allegedly injured as result of insured's negligence, but who has not obtained a settlement of verdict against insured, has no beneficial interest in insured's policy with insurer and no cause of action against insurer has accrued -- When an insurer demonstrates that the pre-suit requirements of section 627.4136, Florida Statutes, have not been met, certiorari review of an order denying a motion to dismiss is appropriate

LANTANA INSURANCE, LTD., Petitioner, vs. JOSEPH C. THORNTON, III; JEAN THORNTON; MARKHAMAT (MYA) ABDUJALALOVA; and ROBERT DEAN, Respondents. 3rd District. Case No. 3D13-583. L.T. Case No. 12-190-K. July 17, 2013. A Writ of Certiorari to the Circuit Court for Monroe County, David J. Audlin, Judge. Counsel: Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, Jay D. O'Sullivan, Hector R. Rivera and Justin D. Siegwald, for petitioner. Richard A. Sherman, Sr. (Fort Lauderdale); Fulmer, LeRoy, Albee Baumann & Glass, and Richard Fulmer (Fort Lauderdale); Garcia & Smith and Ronald E. Solomon (Key West), for respondents.

(Before SHEPHERD, C.J., and WELLS and SUAREZ, JJ.)

(WELLS, Judge.) Lantana Insurance, LTD, seeks certiorari review of an interlocutory order denying its motion to dismiss a third-party complaint for declaratory judgment. Because the conditions mandated by section 627.4136 of the Florida Statutes have not been met, we grant the writ and quash the order denying dismissal.

Lantana is one of two insurance companies providing homeowners' insurance to Jean Thornton who allegedly, while walking a friend's dog, "clothes-lined" Markhamat Abdujalalova with the dog's leash as Abdujalalova rode by on a motor scooter. Abdujalalova and her husband, Robert Dean, sued Thornton for negligence. Both Lantana and Thornton's other insurer, Alfa Insurance, denied coverage and Alfa brought a separate action to secure a declaration regarding coverage. When Lantana failed to join in this action or to bring a separate declaratory judgment action, Abdujalalova and her husband filed a third party complaint against Lantana in Alfa's declaratory judgment action.

Lantana moved to dismiss the third party complaint arguing that section 627.4136 barred such third party claims absent a settlement or verdict against an insured. That provision expressly provides:

It shall be a condition precedent to the accrual or maintenance of a cause of action against a liability insurer by a person not an insured under the terms of the liability insurance contract that such person shall first obtain a settlement or verdict against a person who is an insured under the terms of such policy for a cause of action which is covered by such policy.

§ 627.4136(1), Fla. Stat. (2011). The motion was denied and the action abated instead.

Generally, certiorari will not lie to address an order denying a motion to dismiss. See S. Owners Ins. Co. v. Mathieu, 67 So. 3d 1156, 1158 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011); see also Universal Sec. Ins. Co. v. Spreadbury, 524 So. 2d 1167, 1167 (Fla. 2d DCA 1988). However, when an insurer demonstrates that the pre-suit requirements of section 627.4136 have not been met, certiorari review of an order denying a motion to dismiss is appropriate. Mathieu, 67 So. 3d at 1158 ("[W]here an insurer asserts that the presuit requirements of section 627.4136 have not been met, certiorari review is appropriate. . . . [T]he irreparable harm in such cases arises from the fact that an insurer is being forced to litigate an action brought by a third-party plaintiff which would be barred if, in fact, the requirements of section 627.4136 have not been met."); see Spreadbury, 524 So. 2d at 1167 (confirming that certiorari was appropriate to review an order denying a motion to dismiss a complaint where the conditions precedent to accrual of a cause of action set forth in the predecessor to section 627.4136 had not been met); accord Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Moffett, 513 So. 2d 1345, 1346 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987).

It is undisputed that Abdujalalova and her husband have not obtained a settlement with or verdict against Thornton. They therefore have no beneficial interest in Thornton's policy with Lantana and no cause of action against Lantana has accrued. See Mathieu, 67 So. 3d at 1158-59; Gen. Star Indem. Co. v. Boran Craig Barber Engel Constr. Co., 895 So. 2d 1136, 1138 (Fla. 2d DCA 205). The third party complaint should, therefore, have been dismissed.

Accordingly, the petition for writ of certiorari is granted and the trial court's order denying Lantana's motion to dismiss and abating that action is quashed.







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